Somewhere during my last trip back home, I had begun plotting for a return in Summer. Summer 2016.
Searches online yielded Lufthansa (and their Star Alliance partners) to be the cheapest choice for me, a fare less than $1000 return. However, this involved four kinda uninteresting A330-300s (relative to the other choices I had). As much as I’d like to try Swiss Air, I wasn’t happy with this. However for just $15 more, there was an option to take a Boeing 747-8i and an Airbus A380, alongside the Airbus A340-600, too. Bought this for just under $1005. For a stay for three months, this wasn’t a bad deal at all!
AND HOW DO I GET TO CHICAGO?
My next dilemma was: how do I get to Chicago - Road? Rail? Or Air? I was close to purchasing tickets on AMTRAK, before I found some really cheap fares between Minneapolis/ St. Paul and Chicago O’Hare. $35 one way on United. Bought that. For the return, there was an American Airlines MD80 service in the evening following the arrival from Munich.
AND TO MSP?
Similarly, cheap fares existed on the Grand Forks-Minneapolis-Grand Forks route on the 'one and only' Delta. Having been on a few of their CRJs already, I was hoping for something more than just the CRJ200s, and to my luck there was a CRJ900 service early in the morning! With that, a super crazy itinerary was planned out…..
BUT BUT, WHAT ABOUT DELHI - KOLKATA?!
Of course! The India part of the domestic flights are important too! :D Simple choice. While SpiceJet, Go Air and IndiGo offered some ultra cheap fares between New Delhi and Kolkata, its kinda hard to brush aside the fact that Air India operate a Boeing 787-8 on the route, with a baggage allowance similar to that on international flights (25kgs). And so, finally, the super crazy itinerary….
DL3909 (opb Endeavor Air for Delta Connection) Grand Forks to Minneapolis/St. Paul dep: 0505 hours, arr: 0614 hours 17th May 2016 CRJ-900LR —3hr47min of yay— UA686 Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago O'Hare dep: 1001 hours, arr: 1135 hours 17th May 2016 A320-200 (changed to A319-100 later) —4hr25min of yay— LH431 Chicago O'Hare to Frankfurt Am-Main dep: 1600 hours, arr: 0715+1 hours 17th May 2016 B747-8 Intercontinental —6hr30min of yay— LH760 Frankfurt Am-Main to New Delhi, dep: 1345 hours, arr: 0055 hours 18th May 2016+1 A380-800 —6hr05min of yay— AI401 New Delhi to Kolkata dep: 0700 hours, arr: 0915 hours 19th May 2016 B787-8 Dream)liner
A family decision was also made to stay in our new house that’s in Mumbai. The plan was, to quote my mum 'some how get him to the house in Mumbai and he could rest it out there'. So to add to the above: —22hr40min of real, not sarcastic yay— SG488 Kolkata to Mumbai dep: 0755 hours, arr: 1055 hours 20th May 2016 B737-900ER
And I’ll talk about the remaining flights later :)
VIDEO TRIP REPORT
This entire series comes with video trip reports, so do stay tuned! Find the link for this flight's trip report right here:
BUILDING UP TO THE DAY OF THE TRIP
We were done with exams on the 13th…Friday the 13th. The semester passed by pretty quickly and it was time to head home. Starting off small, the Delta Air Lines CRJ-900. What Delta did for the weeks during that time was actually park the CRJ900 overnight at Grand Forks. I found out over 24 hours prior to the flight that I'd be flying on N307PQ, a relatively young CRJ-900 (2.3 years old).
Until August, UND!
I pre-booked a taxi and left home at an ungodly 0330 hours. I reached Grand Forks International Airport a bit past 0340 hours. (Not the greatest of pics, but..) That's my plane!
Printed my boarding pass on the kiosk, I handed over my suitcase after that. The guy over there was quite busy talking to his coworkers, as he tried to tear off the KLM stickers off of the suitcase, that was painful to see. :(
There was no one.., literally no one around! Just the Delta employees and I. The Allegiant Air counters were inactive, since they are operational only at certain times of the day (or week, rather) anyway. Headed up the escalators only to find my American Government professor who would also be on this flight! Boy, was it an interesting semester….
The TSA in the USA can be a hit or a miss, and the same could happen within just one security experience. That’s exactly what happened with me. The Pre-Check line and regular line weren’t clearly marked. I headed for what was the Pre-Check line (remember, this is Grand Forks, no one was before me). However, the lady was pretty rude in guiding me to the regular line. I’m not sure if it’s in the rule book, but I feel that there probably might not be a difference in the Pre-Check and regular line, so just send the 'not-registered-for-PreCheck' folk over to the shorter line, rather than guiding us through a pointless maze… Anyway, the next TSA person saw my passport and asked me if I was in fact going all the way to India. He wished me a safe flight home when I replied in the affirmative. Like I said, the TSA could be a hit or a miss, even in just one go!
I was done with security at 0402 hours, and I sat around Gate 2. It was at this point I realized that Delta parks not one but two CRJs overnight at Grand Forks. At Gate 2 was N820AY, an Endeavor Air CRJ200, and, of course, at Gate 1 was N307PQ, my ride to Minneapolis. N820AY operated the second last MSP-GFK service of the day (DL4047 arriving GFK just before 6pm/1800 hours), and would operate the second GFK-MSP service (DL3776 departing GFK at 0800 hours).
N307PQ had a packed day ahead. Departing Grand Forks at 0505 hours, arriving at Washington at 2154 hours, she’d fly Grand Forks - Minneapolis - Charlotte - Minneapolis - Cleveland - Detroit - Washington.
Slowly but surely, there was some kind of activity surrounding N307PQ. A bunch of ground crew went around the plane for inspection. All clear from them, the jet bridge was attached to the plane and luggage was loaded in.
According to the boarding ‘document’, (mall paper receipt) boarding was scheduled to start at 0425 hours, forty minutes before the departure time. However, it wasn’t until 0436 hours that boarding was called for the flight. Having being accustomed to ‘since you’re flying a regional jet, there might not be enough space in the overhead bins to stow your carry on, but we’ll be happy to check it to your destination…’ etc etc etc, it was quite weird to hear ‘since you are flying a larger regional jet, there should be enough space in the overhead bins….’ etc etc etc.
I joined the queue for the zone 2 boarding (not because I chose to sit at the back, its because that’s the ONLY option they give me. I am so committed to Delta (because they’re basically the only choice) and yet this what I get :( . Anyway. I headed for the aircraft, both the Captain and lead flight attendant Shannon were at the door welcoming us passengers onboard.
This is when I knew the flight would be better than my previous three less-than-mediocre experiences. I was wearing my Boeing shirt and this obviously caught the attention of the Captain! We had a quick chat before I headed for my seat, 17D.
First class was in a 2-1 configuration, with blankets, pillows and bottles of water placed.
Economy Comfort was up next, followed by the Main Cabin. I found a friend of mine (an international freshman, that too!) sitting in seat 18A - wow, it almost felt like the whole of UND were flying to The Cities! That said, there were quite a few seats empty , including the one beside me. Sure, there too many passengers for a CRJ200, but probably enough to fill a CRJ700….or maybe it was just an off day and this CRJ900 wasn’t packed as normal.
Like my previous CRJ flight (which happened to be a CRJ200, also of Endeavor Air), I found the seat to be very comfortable and well padded, something I haven’t noticed on my (two) SkyWest Airlines flights yet. The legroom was pretty nice for the short hop to MSP, too.
There were two flight attendants - Shannon in First Class and Angela in the main cabin. We’d fly to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 45 minutes at an altitude of 27000 feet. This plane also was WiFi equipped.
We pushed back at 0502 hours, three minutes before time. Fired up both GE CF34 engines and taxied to Runway 34L for a quick departure! I was surprised to see a FedEx ATR just parked around! We took off into the dark skies over Grand Forks, but with a pretty epic looking orange sunrise on the horizon.
Service started, and it took its time. Mother Nature did its thing as the sun rose, with a beautiful orange glow that filled the cabin, and it kept getting better. The flight itself was quite uneventful…except when I realized there was another individual whom I knew onboard, this time one of my Business Professors from UND. I asked for a cup of hot tea to stay awake over the course of the very long day ahead of me. I received Delta’s Biscoff cookies along with a tea bag - it was lovely to see Ceylon Tea (albeit processed in Massachusetts)! I had to gulp this down because descent into The Cities had started.
DESCENT AND ARRIVAL
Slowly, as we headed for touchdown, the sun had a final ace up its sleeve as a orange mood-lighting like effect filled the cabin giving it a very positive start of day ambience. This was lovely to see!
We touched down at 0550 hours, a good twenty five minutes before time. The flight attendant pointed this out, not because of bragging about being on time, but rather because of a few worried passengers who thought they’d miss their connections. Docked at gate C23. Concourse C is the largest in Minneapolis/St. Paul, with no less than 27 gates! This concourse handles the larger regional jets such as the CRJ900 and E175, while also accommodating the medium haul jets such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
I waited a while for all passengers to disembark, I asked my friend where he was heading. He was flying back home to China, via Los Angeles (MSP-LAX on a B753, I checked :P ). Angela overheard our conversations and wished us a safe trip all the way back home! I thanked Shannon and the Captain and stepped out of N307PQ. Not too special of a flight, but yet it felt like I had my best flight with Delta Air Lines yet. N307PQ would head to Charlotte, NC as DL3966.
I headed for the baggage claim (again - searching for this took a while!), unsurprisingly my suitcase was the only that was being delivered, since all passengers had onward connections beyond MSP.
It was 0615 hours, basically scheduled arrival time when I got my suitcase. With just under 3hr45min to my next flight, I decided to head back up the stairs to the departure area to check in for my next flight. A new airline lay before me, I was getting closer to home!!
I would like to thank AV for predicting the rotation of the aircraft for this flight, and a shout out to TG for his help in editing. Thanks for reading folks! :)
Delta (Endeavor Air)
Grand Forks - GFK
Minneapolis - MSP
It was great to have an uneventful flight with Delta, which was actually quite great. The crew members were enthusiastic, an interesting captain, on time, and a very clean aircraft. I loved the CRJ-900LR, too!
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